Friday, April 20, 2007

Adaptation

Books provide filmmakers with ready-made plots on which to base screenplays (useful when plagiarism claims start to fly), and a proven audience. But unless they are global mega-sellers like Dan Brown, J K Rowling or Michael Crichton, the actual authors are lower on the food chain than the screenwriter ...
Danuta Kean talks about the real deal is for authors when their novels are "optioned", in a piece written for Myslexia and reproduced in the Independent.

Some time ago we talked about the film adaptations we liked and those we thought sucked. Great clearly minds think alike (!) and one or two of Kean's choices echo my own. (Captain Corelli's Mandolin is a clunker, and Mingella's take on Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient is so good it actually does the novel a favour.)

She also highly recommends another film of the book which I think is the cleverest adaptation from book to film I've ever seen - Adaptation:
Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman turned Susan Orlean's 'unfilmable' book The Orchid Thief into a jaw dropping satire about writer's block.
and which is itself about the whole process of adaptation from book to screenplay!

Kean also points to the large number of novels which have made it to the big screen this year. I'm pretty dreadful at getting myself out to the cinema and my conscience hurts when I buy pirated DVD's ... but I am so looking forward to seeing the adaptations of Zoë Heller's Notes on a Scandal (one of my favourite novels) and Giles Foden's The Last King of Scotland (which I still have to read). I'll probably catch them on Astro a year or two down the line.

Postscript:

Leon also has a post up about adaptations he's looking forward to.

22 comments:

Leon Wing said...

Another book to movie I love: The Hours by Michael Cunningham.

Incidentally I posted a link to a BBC short based on a Toby Litt story. And Dan Rhodes will be having his last novel The Little Whie Car adapted to the big screen. See these in this link: http://leonwing.blogspot.com/2007/04/bbc-litt-short-dan-rhode-screenplay.html (sorry for this little plug)

bibliobibuli said...

thanks so much for this news leon

will post your link up top!

animah said...

Firstworks of ICT are organising an adaptation workshop (to theatre scripts) early July. I'll send you the info by e-mail. It is lead by the director of an Australian adaptation of Alias Grace into a play - which will be performed in KL early July as well.

Chet said...

Your link to Leon's entry is broken - too many letters before the actual URL.

bibliobibuli said...

animah - i want i want! don't let me be blur about this workshop.

thanks chet - it's when i accidentally leave a space

Eliza said...

Hi Sharon, I actually am looking forward to watching Notes on a Scandal, too. Hope it comes to
Astro.

Jordan said...

Have you seen the film adaptation of Patrick Suskind's novel Perfume? I haven't, and after reading the book I have doubts that the movie could even come close. I'll just have to see it, I guess.

Anonymous said...

i saw Notes On A Scandal in Berlin. and then i met Dame Judi and Cate at the press conference. jealous yet? :P


The Visitor

bibliobibuli said...

jordan - damn! just remembered it was on at the cinemas i few days ago. i meant to go but just forgot. (a.d.d.??). i bought the book in a warehouse sale because i've heard it is very good. anyone read or seen it??

go away, visitor, you make me totally sick. anyway, was the film good?

Anonymous said...

yes, it is a very interesting film. not boring at all.

Viz

sympozium said...

Perfume the novel was very good. Makes one almost smell the concoctions made. As s story...uhhh...(waggle my palm horizontally)

Subashini said...

i thought perfume was a strong novel in terms of characterization and atmosphere. the main character was repulsive in so many ways, and his motivations are so different from that of an 'ordinary' person (one hopes!), yet one could empathize with the guy. i really enjoyed it, found it immensely absorbing and couldn't really stop once i started. i haven't watched the movie yet. i bought the pirated DVD before the movie hit local cinemas (i have no conscience!) and nervously put it away because i didn't want it to ruin my experience of the book.

on the other hand, i didn't quite appreciate notes on a scandal that much, but felt that the film was brought to life by the BRILLIANT judi dench. she nailed the character of the mildly-creepy embittered-by-life older woman. you're cringing as she does the things she does, but almost hoping she'll get away with it. i thought the movie better than the book, but i know people who hadn't read the book before and found the movie to be a bit blah. so i suppose i enjoyed the movie more for having read the book and being a little underwhelmed by it.

bibliobibuli said...

subashini - i thought zoe heller's book quite brilliant - i can only think of two writers who have used an "unreliable narrator" (i.e one who is blind to his her own faults although the reader is fully aware of them) more skilfully - ford madox ford in "the good soldier" (a must-read if you are a fiction writer, an ought-to-skip for the rest of the world) and ishiguro in "remains of the day"

the film, because it is a film, will not be able to portray this quality of the book (although i understand that voices overs are used) but must necessarily concentrate on the external story.

the casting is inspired though, and the trailer i saw left me hungry for more

animah said...

Sharon, why is The Good Soldier a must read for the fiction writer, yet an ought to skip for the rest of the world? Should'nt the fiction writer be aware of what the rest of the world want?

Irman said...

I think The Good Soldier Švejk is a better read for The Fiction Writer :)

Irman said...

PS Leon

I hated both versions of The Hours. But the title is very apt.

The Hours indeed.

msiagirl said...

Kenny and I just had a chat about Perfume today! Serendipity.I really enjoyed the novel, it's so dark and obsessive and compelling - plus fragrance is my business! Do read it before you see the film (which I haven't seen yet - but it always seems to work better to read novel first, don't you think? ;)

I went through a phase of watching Charles Kaufman movies in a row - Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine, Adaptation. Have a great deal of respect - and soooo funny!

bibliobibuli said...

animah - i believe there are some writers who are ... writers' writers (auster i think is one, maybe banville) because they carve out new ways of doing things ...

"the good soldier" is a novel i found very hard to get into (most readers i think would give up before they start), but the way the story is told is fascinating

the narrator tells his story, and then revises it and revises it again going round in circles until we finally know the truth of what really happened as he cuts through layers of self-deception. i've never seen another novelist do this in the same way.

i think you would like it very much but i wouldn't recommend it to most readers because they will find it difficult and perhaps not have patience with it. (i hear the voices of our book club members - "who chose this book?").

my much battered copy is at your disposal if you want to try it.

thanks irman, will remember that

msiagirl - fragrance is your business? do tell! i would definitely say always read the film before you read the book. sometimes though i watch the film first by accident (i just turn on astro), like it, and realise there is a book of it which i'd be interested to read. and i watch films of books i know i probably won't read (e.g. the tv movie of "a painted house" which was on yesterday ... but sadly i fell asleep halfway!)

kaufman is so good ... haven't see "eternal sunshine" yet though

Jane Sunshine said...

A recent book to movie is The Namesake, based on Jhumpa Lahiri's book of the same name. The book is okay, nothing spectacular but the movie itself (by Mira Nair) is excellent, capturing the displaced immigrant experience with great sensitivity and fantastic acting. One of those rare moments when I left a cinema hall feeling visibly moved.

Chet said...

Mira Nair has always done good movies. Salaam Bombay remains a favourite after all these years, and Monsoon Wedding was such a delightful visual feast.

msiagirl said...

Some of the time I am an aromatherapist here - and I read Perfume once before and once after I had trained. I relished the descriptions of enfleurage - laying the flowers in fat which absorbed the scent - and distillation so much more after studying it so much in detail. We went to Grasse in Provence on a study tour and we got to meet the "nose" of a perfume house and put together our own scent for fun! I do enjoy my work ;) Scent is one of the hardest things to describe with words, so I appreciate the difficulty this author has undertaken and his thesis on smelling and how it strikes directly into the primitive places of ourselves. :) It is true we all have our own unique scent - we make unconscious decisions whether we want to be around somebody by their scent!

bibliobibuli said...

it must be a very fulfilling job. i love aromatherapy oils and have a collection of them as well as a couple of books on how to use them.
and i must read "perfume" now ...